In the TEFL world, it’s hard to get by without the constant use of acronyms Everyone has that one same question What does TEFL stand for? I’ve mentioned one already, and I’m going to mention many more, so prepare yourself. Why are there so many acronyms and what do they mean? In this article, we’re going to divide the categories into general acronyms, TEFL qualifications, examinations, and classroom lingo. We will distinguish TEFL from TESOL, CELTA from DELTA, EFL from ESL, TTT from PPP, and much more. Get your pen and paper ready.

General TEFL Acronyms

By ‘general’ acronyms I mean broad terms that encompass a large sector of the TEFL industry. These are terms that are commonly used and provide the context for many other acronyms in the TEFL world.

What does TEFL Stand For?

You probably know this by now, but TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Broadly, most of the acronyms discussed in the article will fall under the branch of TEFL. More specifically, however, TEFL means teaching English in a country where English is not the official language.

What Do The Acronyms TESOL & TESL Stand For?

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is synonymous with TEFL, however, there are some differences. TESOL specifically refers to teaching English to students of other languages, in a country where English is the official language. For example, teaching English to Chinese students in the United States.

TESL is an acronym for Teaching English as a Second Language. Just like with TESOL, TESL means that a native teacher will teach English to foreign students who are in an English-speaking country.

What Does ESL, EFL, and ELT Stand For?

ESL means ‘English as a Second Language’, whereas EFL means English as a Foreign Language. What’s the difference? The differences are virtually the same as between TEFL and TESL.

EFL means that the English language is foreign, whereas ESL means the student is foreign. While they’re pretty broad acronyms, EFL implies the studies of English in a foreign and non-English speaking country. ESL implies that the foreign student is learning English in an English-speaking country. It’s all about the context of who or what is foreign.

EFL is also broader than TEFL. It could refer to EFL teaching, EFL students, or EFL teachers. EFL is a flexible acronym, it all depends on the context in which it is used. For example, you can have an EFL teacher and an EFL student. However, you can’t technically have a ‘TEFL student’, hence the word “teaching”.

ELT means English Language Teaching and is an acronym that addresses the teachers and their practice rather than the students. ELT can include both EFL and ESL.

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What is ESP Teaching?

ESP refers to English for Specific Purposes. Students of ESP are looking for more than general English training. Instead, they want to learn English within the context of something like work or interests. One of the most popular examples of ESP is Business English, where students learn English within the business context. This could mean optimizing presentation skills, spoken or written skills, technical business vocabulary, and so on.

ESP teachers can expect to earn more than general English teachers. This is because they are specialists that offer something which students desire specifically. English teachers who have business, engineering, or medical knowledge, for example, offer a more specific skill set than general English teachers.

TEFL Acronyms for Teaching Qualifications

Now we’ve got some general terms out of the way, let’s address TEFL qualifications. In the TEFL world, there are a plethora of teaching qualifications you can obtain. And with them are a plethora of TEFL acronyms. Shock.

What Does Ofqual Mean?

Before we continue, we should address what the abbreviation ‘Ofqual’ stands for. It stands for The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation. While it isn’t a qualification or directly related to TEFL acronyms, it is a useful framework that regulates qualifications. In the UK, there are up to eight Ofqual Levels.

For reference, diplomas and foundation degrees are Ofqual Level 5. A Bachelor’s Degree is Ofqual Level 6, and a MA is an Ofqual Level 7. At the top is a Doctorate or Ph.D. which is Ofqual Level 8.

Our courses at Premier TEFL are Ofqual regulated and we are accredited by the TQUK (Training Qualifications UK), ODLQC (Open & Distance Quality Council), and ACDL (Accreditation Council for Distance Learning). This reinforces our quality when it comes to TEFL training.

What Does TEFL Certified Mean?

Because TEFL is so broad, obtaining a TEFL certificate or qualification will lead to plenty of opportunities. By being ‘TEFL certified’, you have a passport to teach all over the world. TEFL courses will provide you with comprehensive training and optimize your skills to become a capable teacher. Typically, 120 hour TEFL courses are Ofqual Level 3.

However, it is also a case of being the jack of all trades, but the master of none. If you want to specialize within the TEFL industry, you can opt for something in addition to a TEFL course. Many teaching specialists enter the industry with a standard TEFL course before upskilling with something specific. This is where taking the path of ESP can be beneficial. With Premier TEFL, you can specialize in the following courses:

Teach IELTS Online
Teach Young Learners
Become a TOIEC Coach
Became an Online English Coach
Teach Business English
Teach Advanced Grammar

If you’re looking to specialize along with your TEFL certification, take a look at the 230 Hour Ofqual Regulated Level 5 TEFL Course, 240 Hour Level 5 Hybrid TEFL Course, or the all-encompassing 310 Hour Level 5 Hybrid TEFL Course.

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What is a CELTA?

This might be confusing. CELTA is officially known as the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, which doesn’t conform to its acronym. This is because it was formerly known as the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults.

So, annoyingly, it has two meanings. The most relevant meaning doesn’t conform to its acronym, but the less relevant meaning does.

This is because when it was first installed to train TEFL teachers, they used to specialize in teaching adults. However, a CELTA is appropriate to teach students of all ages, and the change in the acronym reflects its relevance in teaching all demographics. The name CELTA comes with a high reputation, and they sought to preserve that by keeping the acronym.

CELTA is one of the most reputable teaching qualifications you can obtain. With a CELTA, opportunities will be rife and you can choose from the best schools with the highest salaries. According to the Ofqual framework, a CELTA is Level 5.

CELTA courses are expensive, and they often require full-time and in-class study. It is very demanding as there are additional study hours outside of class, as well as teaching observations. It is also regulated by Cambridge English, meaning that your training is of the maximum quality. It’s fair to say that with a CELTA qualification, you will receive the best training and qualification possible.

What About a DELTA?

DELTA, like CELTA, is for those who seek high-quality training to maximize their TEFL experience. The DELTA is internationally recognized and among the best, a teacher can have in their arsenal.

It is an acronym for Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. And while it sounds like CELTA and is regulated by Cambridge English, there are some slight differences.

While CELTA is for aspiring teachers, DELTA is for those who seek higher positions and senior roles within their schools. Teachers with this qualification can become the head of their department or specialize in teacher training. Additionally, while CELTA allows those with no prior experience to become qualified, DELTA requires that teachers have at least a year of experience to enrol. By becoming DELTA certified, you would have your hands on an Ofqual Level 7 qualification.


Like the CELTA and DELTA, CertTESOL is an internationally recognized qualification. However, it isn’t accredited by Cambridge English, but by Trinity College London. It stands for the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. The CertTESOL is comparable in almost every way to the CELTA. Like the CELTA, it’s for those who have less experience as teachers. Its curriculum is similarly structured and it is Level 5 according to Ofqual’s framework.

The biggest difference between CertTESOL and CELTA is their brand image. It is a fair assessment that CELTA is more established as a brand. However, it also means that you can obtain the CertTESOL at a lower price.

The DipTESOL stands for the Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and is very reputable internationally. Similar to the DELTA, it allows teachers to train for senior roles such as examiners, director of studies, and teacher trainers. Just as the DELTA is, the DipTESOL is an Ofqual Level 7.


While this is technically not a TEFL acronym, it is extremely relevant to the teaching world.

The PGCE stands for Postgraduate Certificate in Education, and it is a teacher training qualification you can obtain after your degree. A PGCE requires usually one year of study at university and is Ofqual Level 7.

With a PGCE, employers will be clamouring to get your signature. It demonstrates a big commitment towards not only teaching but becoming a great teacher. Bear in mind that with a PGCE you will need to consider tuition fees at your university. Additionally, you will need to apply months in advance for the academic year, whereas other qualifications are more flexible.

» 12 Facts You Need to Know About Teaching English


The TKT is an acronym for Teaching Knowledge Test. It is a way for new and experienced teachers to obtain a globally recognized certificate. TKT consists of five modules in which teachers will be tested with multiple-choice tests. Like the CELTA and DELTA, it is regulated by Cambridge English. It is also a more cost-effective option if you want to consolidate your credentials on paper.

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English Language Test Acronyms

While we’ve covered the courses and qualifications that teachers take, we need to consider what exams students take. This is useful for teachers who will end up preparing students for these specific examinations.


The TOEFL exam stands for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is an exam that non-native English speakers take to qualify and study at English universities. The test is internationally recognized, as it is implemented by over 11,000 universities in over 150 countries. It is estimated that almost 2.5 million students have taken this exam.


TOEIC is an acronym for the Test of English for International Communication. Similar to the TOEFL, TOEIC is an international standardized test for non-native English speakers. However, instead of facilitating students’ entry into particular universities, it is for international workers instead.

TOEIC is used by companies who want to ensure that their future employees have English proficiency and can operate within the company effectively. It is estimated that around 6 million workers take the TOEIC exam each year. With so many students aiming to pass the exam, TOEIC teachers are in high demand. At Premier TEFL, we have a TEFL pro qualification where you can specialize by taking the teaching exam English course.


IELTS is the International English Language Testing System. It is essentially all-encompassing, as it is a test for students, workers, and migrants to take. When taking the IELTS test, students will be tested on their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.

The tests are also divided according to what the students’ requirements are. If students want to study abroad, they will take the academic test. Workers and migrants, however, will undertake IELTS general training. In the UK, the IELTS exam is the only approved English Language exam for visa grant entries.

It is estimated that over 3 million students take the IELTS exam each year. Additionally, it is managed by the British Council, Cambridge English, and IELTS Australia. This makes the IELTS one of the most recognized English examinations. Many students dream of living and working abroad, so the demand for IELTS teachers is high. If being an IELTS teacher interests you, you can specialize in our TEFL-pro Teaching IELTS Online course!

Bonus: Classroom Lingo

You won’t only see these TEFL acronyms on the internet, you might see them in the classroom. Here are some teaching techniques or ‘classroom lingo’ that might be useful to memorize.


TPR, or Total Physical Response is a teaching method that relies heavily on body language when communicating. I’m sure you’ve heard the overused “body language accounts for 75% of communication”… But it’s incredibly important when conveying new ideas to students.


TTT, or Test, Teach, Test is the method of testing your students before even delivering the topic. After completing the testing stage, the teacher will then deliver the target language. It can help the teacher identify what needs to be improved before learning particular items.


One of the most popular teaching methodologies is PPP, or Presentation, Practice, Production. The Presentation stage consists of the teacher introducing the target language to the students. In the Practice stage, the students will familiarise themselves with its use. Production is when the student will be asked to independently produce these language items in context.


TTT and STT refer to Teacher Talk-Time and Student Talk-Time. Many students learn by actively participating, so it is essential to maximize the STT when possible.


CLT, or Communicative Language Teaching, is a teaching method that aims to improve fluency. The objective is to develop a student’s spoken English skills so they can incorporate the target language more naturally.


TBL stands for Task-Based Learning. It is an effective technique where students learn through engaging activities rather than listening and writing. Similar to CLT, it allows students to demonstrate and refine their English skills more naturally. This will appeal to kinaesthetic and visual learners significantly.

TIL (Today, I Learned…)

Today, you learned an abundance of TEFL acronyms. There is no shortage of acronyms in the TEFL industry, inside or outside the classroom. Something is alluring about these mysterious and never-ending TEFL acronyms, and the more we learn, the more opportunities we discover with TEFL. By familiarizing yourself with these acronyms, you’re exploring different avenues of TEFL. Additionally, you now know how to value TEFL qualifications by using the Ofqual framework of references. Whether you want to obtain a CELTA, a DELTA, or become an ESP specialist, each of these acronyms represents something unique about TEFL.

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